When we had our daughter we hit the jackpot. Karleigh was the happiest, best sleeping baby in the history of ever, and then she turned 18 months old. From that time until she was 3 it was like living with a cute, small, little monster with pigtails. Every morning she woke up happy, and the rest of the day after that was a total mystery. If someone came over, she would either hug them, or scream (and I mean, the girl had LUNGS!) People used to tell me “oh just wait, it gets worse when they turn 3” and I would very confidently reply “you don’t understand, it can’t get worse, therefore it will not” … and it didn’t. Karleigh turned 3 and the light switched back, we kissed (or kicked!) the terrible 2’s goodbye and we moved on! We never looked back and she amazes me everyday at what a consistent shining little ray of joy she is.
Having dealt with the terrible 2’s once, when Keegan came into them we weren’t surprised. Just like Karleigh, he was a happy baby, met all his milestones, walked at 11 months old. Also, just like Karleigh it started around 18 months of age and I kept telling myself, only a year and a half, once he is 3 it will be smooth sailing. Well he turned 3, and the tantrums (which I now know were meltdowns, and there is a difference) stayed. I had to cancel plans, leave get togethers and even birthday parties because Keegan was “being Keegan” and I couldn’t even THINK about taking him to a store, or (oh my word) a restaurant! Only a few more months and he will be 4 and I mean seriously, how long can it take!? So he turned 4, the tantrums continued, the walking on egg shells whenever I took him somewhere continued, and our days frequently involved him in his room for a time out and me in tears. I knew every single time that yelling and time outs were not helping, but I had no other coping skill some days, it was heartbreaking. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like this everyday ALL day. We could have friends over and have a great visit. He had lots of people in his life that he LOVED and would enjoy playing with and he could go for sleepovers at Grammas house no problem. He never had a separation issue with me or a sleeping issue, his diet was relatively normal aside from his obvious favourites that he would choose if given the option. Keegan though, was like a tiny little ticking time bomb and you never knew when it was going to explode. THAT part was all day every day. He started preschool when he was 3 and a half and by the 2nd year he was going 5 days a week part-time and loving it. He was blessed with the most amazing teacher who to this day still checks in on him to see how he is doing. We know for sure that she, as well as the 2 amazing women at kindergarten have contributed tremendously to the gentle heart that is inside of him.
Preschool was coming to an end and it was time to register for kindergarten. He turned 5, and the red flags were more obvious than ever. 2 made sense, 3 made sense, 4 was a bit of a concern, but now he was 5! At the time he was attending 2 different preschool’s and when it came time to discuss kindergarten one school strongly recommended another year of preschool while the other didn’t agree, and we didn’t either. He had already done 2 years of preschool and the main concerns were his social skills and maturity, we didn’t see how keeping him in a class of younger kids would help. So we made the decision, with support from the school to enrol him in kindergarten and I will never forget sitting there with the Principal saying “I don’t want to be THAT mom. If something is wrong with him I don’t want to be in denial, so if we are having this same talk in kindergarten I will be open-minded to other options”
Summer came and went, school started and not even 2 months into the year there I was, sitting with the principal, and the teacher, and the resource teacher, saying “I know what I said last year, and I meant it … I know that we need to help him, I see that now” but man was it hard. I said those things but I said them through tears, I ugly cried through that entire meeting. In that moment I didn’t recall any tantrums, yelling, hitting or crying, all I could think about was my perfect adorable little blue-eyed boy. None of the difficult moments came to my mind it was only the ones of him being a healthy baby, a bright kid, a hilarious kid! I felt hopeless and helpless all at once and it was awful. We were thankful that both physically and mentally there was nothing “wrong” with him but some days it was torture to try to find something, to fix something, when we had no idea what we were looking for. As much as I knew it deep down for a long time before, it still hit me like a freight train.
Part of that meeting that will always stick with me was when our principal (whom we think is amazing!) said to me, “April this is probably extra difficult for you to hear because unlike other parents who are hearing these things for the first time, you know exactly what we are saying.” You see at the same time as this was happening I was going to school to be an Education Assistant, to work with all kinds of kids but particularly ones with some kind of special need … ones, it turned out, just like my own son. That was a tough pill to swallow. Looking back now, the irony in it all makes me smile. I believe 100% that God has a plan for our lives, one that is already mapped out. At times in our life when we try to take control God breaks us down to what sometimes feels like nothing, and then gently picks up our pieces and sets us back on our track. I assumed that I could send Keegan off to school and he would be fine, and I would go off to school and learn to work with these sweet little kids who need all this extra help, and God said “you already have a sweet little kid who needs extra help, so here are the tools to do just that.” I have learned so much in my program about myself and about my own children it is astounding and invaluable and I am so thankful. I knew that working with these kids was where my heart was, and being able to help my own (and better myself) is such an unbelievable bonus.
So where are we now? Well Keegan turned 6 this month and for the very first time in his life I didn’t think to myself “man, he’s 6, when will this end!?” instead I thought to myself, “ok, now he’s 6, this didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t fix itself overnight. Lets pull our shit together and figure this out” We are currently working with a naturopath, a chiropractor, our school and also waiting for an assessment that will happen next month. Our naturopath has done amazing things for Keegan as far as his diet and overall health goes and already you can see a difference. His chiropractor is a wonderful woman and Keegan loves going to see Dr. Amanda. She has told me that she doesn’t observe anything in him that makes her think that we cant correct and/or integrate his quirks into his system and see him succeed which makes my heart sing!
As far as the assessment goes for now we will just wait until that happens and do our best to prepare him for grade 1 next year. He is not diagnosed with anything at this point, and to me that’s not our goal. Keegan doesn’t fit any typical “textbook” scenario and for most people who know him you would never think that we are dealing with these things. While social skills may be something we are working on, it’s not what you might think. If we go to a park, or a playground, he finds friends, plays with them instantly and interacts like anyone else. In class though, when he says he wants to “play” with someone, that means that person can be in the same vicinity as him, but they better not dare touch his stuff. They can just be near him and that’s good enough for him. Even his teacher says that watching him you just can’t quite pin point what is going on because often he seems like any other child, but then you see little bits of something else, and those little bits are effecting his education and so figuring that out, THAT is our goal.
For the last 2 months I have been pretty absent in my business. While still working, shooting, editing and booking weddings for 2016 I haven’t been posting anything, and I figured the 2 month mark was a good time to explain what I have been up to. I have been at appointment, after appointment. Beside my bed where I would love there to be a book about nothing in particular, there are articles and usually my computer, open to some medical page or another mom’s blog. I like to remind myself, and everyone else that I am at the end of the day just a normal person, and I am a mom before all else.
I also want moms to know that I get it. My life comes across one way to a lot of people and as much as I truly am the blessed wife and happy mother that I portray, I am also the mom who sometimes yells. I am the mom whose son tells her she is terrible sometimes and makes her cry, and then 5 minutes later tells her “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” I am the happy person who loves people most days but sometimes seriously can’t stand them. I am the mom who has heard people say all kind of things about her kids from “he is SO adorable” or “she is HILARIOUS” to “He’s going to be perfectly fine!” and “he really is a brat!” … I get it. I am a real mom, with real kids, and real issues … and I understand.